Drowsy Driving vs. Drunk Driving vs. High Driving

It’s well known that there’s a correlation between sleeping patterns and marijuana usage. Research shows that there are some strains that work better at inducing sleepiness or lowering pain and stress symptoms. This alone makes marijuana an appealing alternative or last resort when nothing else works. 

Those who are turning towards marijuana to cure insomnia, though, should be aware of the problems associated with consuming it as it can certainly be tempting to use it for purposes other than as a  sleeping aid. One common problem, for instance, is that people are now smoking marijuana and getting behind the wheel.  Some may think that one puff won’t affect them enough to fall asleep while driving, but the problem goes beyond that. There’s a bigger picture to consider.

The facts about driving drowsy versus driving drunk are well known, but what about driving drunk versus driving high?

Impaired driving is the most common cause of fatal car crashes in both Canada and the USA. Driving under the influence of alcohol can be easily determined and regulated, but when it comes to driving under the influence of marijuana, we have a problem!


Alarming statistics about using alcohol and driving

Drinking and driving is illegal in both Canada and the USA. Actually, driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) over 0.08% is a criminal offense in both countries. It is strictly regulated by the laws and measured by a breathalyzer test with extreme accuracy.

Still, one-third of all car accidents in both countries end up being fatal. Over a million of Americans are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol. The statistics are alarming!

Also, it is really important to emphasize that driving under the influence of drugs, including marijuana is illegal, and most states do not tolerate it (except a few).


The long way to legal marijuana In Canada

Seven out of ten Canadians are looking forward to next spring with excitement because they support marijuana legalization. Ever since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the beginning of the complex process, government agencies have begun their work on marijuana laws and regulations. However, a lot of aspects need to be strictly regulated, like possessing, selling, producing, and driving under the influence of marijuana. That’s why law enforcement agencies should prepare  drug-impaired laws before marijuana is legalized in Canada before it’s too late.


What can Canada learn from Colorado?

Five US states have legalized marijuana by now (Colorado, Washington, Washington DC, Oregon, and Alaska). But, back in 2014, when Colorado legalized marijuana for recreational use, the state was not prepared to deal with smoking and driving. And over time, the state was facing the real problem and had to regulate marijuana-impaired driving.

Today, Colorado allows less than five nanograms per milliliter of blood of THC when driving. Also, there are punishments for not following the rules. However, detecting drivers under the influence of marijuana remains one of the biggest challenges for Colorado police.


The problem with identifying high driving

While police can conduct field sobriety tests by using a breathalyzer test if they suspect a driver is impaired by alcohol, there is no reliable established method to easily detect and measure impairment when it comes to driving while high.

The accuracy and effectiveness of a few pilot methods and saliva tests are being assessed before they become police routine. But until then, police officers are trained to recognize marijuana-impaired drivers by their behavior and physical appearance.


Drunk driving vs. high driving infographic

When can you be charged with DUI? What are the consequences? What are the penalties for impaired driving?

This infographic from OMQ law firm based in Toronto gives a nice comparison of laws in Canada and the USA. So, let’s take a close look at what can Canada learn from five US states where Marijuana is now legal.

drunk driving vs high driving


If you or a loved one is suffering from excessive daytime sleepiness due to a suspected sleep disorder, talk to your doctor right away. For more information about scheduling a sleep study, contact us.

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  1. Betty Reply

    Thank you for that info graphic! It is well done.

    Back in December I wrote an article titled “​4 Steps to Save a Life This Holiday Season” which can be found on my website and talks about what to do when you see someone drunk driving. Since then I’ve been reading articles on how drowsy driving or driving high are equally as dangerous. But what your article brings up, that I had never thought about and haven’t read about yet was how there is currently no way in place to uniformly tests for these impairments. That is an important piece in the puzzle that I hadn’t thought of. Thank you for bringing that up!

    • Julia Rodriguez Reply

      Hi Betty. Yes, there’s a lot of awareness about the dangers of drunk driving, but not enough about drowsy driving.

  2. Adelita E Valentine Reply

    Why isn’t there any information included as to how being under the influence of marijuana effects driving skills? What does marijuana do to drivers? How many fatalities have there been from accidents caused by hi drivers? Do people build immunities to the effects of marijuana after long term usage? Will that be considered on the field when an officer thinks someone is driving hi?
    More info please

  3. Michelle Reply

    Who would’ve thought that infographics can be informative and cute at the same time. This share is priceless!

  4. High Rated Gabru Reply

    Awesome info. Thanks for sharing!

  5. caravans Reply

    It’s obvious that snoring while driving is a risk. However, is it just as risky as driving under the impaired? Yes, it is. Drowsiness can cause slow reaction times and reduced focus, mental processing judgment and decision making.

  6. Francis Johnson Reply

    One common problem, for instance, is that people are now smoking marijuana and getting behind the wheel.

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    Cannabis products sales are increasing. Government was restricted these products for few reasons. Lot of cannabis investors are faced same issues. you are on the battle warrior?

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  10. betterfleet Reply

    I think blood tests can be used to measure the level of THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, in a driver’s bloodstream. However, THC can stay in the bloodstream for days or even weeks after a person has smoked marijuana, so a positive blood test does not necessarily mean that the driver was impaired at the time of driving.

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    Drowsy driving does not affect the experience while drinking, but when the mind is not alert, especially after many days without sleep, it can also cause traffic accidents as usual.

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    Regardless of the form of impairment, the consequences of impaired driving can be devastating, resulting in injury, loss of life, legal repercussions, and emotional trauma. It is essential for individuals to prioritize safety, plan ahead, and never operate a vehicle while impaired by any substance or condition. Responsible driving means ensuring that one is alert, focused, and capable of safely operating a vehicle at all times 🙂

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    Drowsy driving, drunk driving, and high driving are all dangerous forms of impaired driving. Drowsy driving occurs when a person is too tired to drive safely, while drunk driving involves operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, and high driving involves driving under the influence of drugs, particularly marijuana. All three can impair judgment, reaction time, and coordination, leading to an increased risk of accidents, injuries, and fatalities on the road. It’s essential to avoid driving in any impaired state and find alternative transportation if necessary.

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    All three—drowsy driving, drunk driving, and driving high—pose serious dangers on the road. It’s vital to stay alert, sober, and focused while driving to keep yourself and others safe.

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